30 September 2006

Social Invention and Power

We know that progress depends on technological inventions - the wheel, the steam engine, and the computer are often cited as keys to our movement into the modern world. What gets less attention is the importance of social inventions like the church, state, bank, and corporation.

One of the reasons that we have such great technology and such amazing abilities (we can fly through the air! Talk to people on other continents! See through walls!) is that we embrace new technology and are constantly putting time and effort into improving it, greatly rewarding innovators who improve existing technology by even 10 or 20%.

Yet on the topic of social inventions, we are far more conservative, far less willing for innovation. People kill one another to squelch innovation in religion or politics. Precedent still has enormous sway with courts. Traditions within finance and business still define a great deal of how people and power are organized.

My prediction about the future? Communities that do as much to make individuals comfortable with social innovation as we are with technological innovation will emerge as the leaders of the next economy. Power and wealth will gravitate to these communities.

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